This drama is about what happens to company men after they part company with the company – when, to put it less charitably, they get pink-slipped. Family man Bobby Walker (Affleck) gets 12 weeks' pay for his 12 years of service at GTX, a Boston-based transportation company that started as a small shipbuilding factory founded by two college roommates and grew into a global corporation. Nelson and Jones play the graying, embattled friends and founders, James Salinger and Gene McClary: Salinger (Nelson) is the rapacious one, and McClary (Jones) – wearing a look of permanent dyspepsia – is the conscience; wanna guess which one gets pushed into early retirement? This is writer/director John Wells’ first feature film; he’s been a respected force in television for three decades (China Beach
). But the producing credits on his CV have always been more convincing than his writing ones – the turgid direction he pushed on The West Wing
when he took over showrunning and writing duties in 2003 flatly undid all the great work he’d done as a producer for that show. The wan, uninvolving The Company Men
bears the same hallmarks as Wells’ West Wing
flameout: bombastic plot swerves and overscripted speeches, a fatal inclination toward sentimentality, and an inability to catch a rhythm – to not feel so damn ponderous
. Yes, these former company men sigh a lot, occasionally raise their voices, get drunk and throw rocks at corporate HQ, but there’s nothing that feels like real rage, nothing that even remotely approximates the spiritual decimation of a termination.